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Gunmen target religious sites in Dagestan

Locations Affected: Russia

What:

Multiple attacks were reported at police posts, churches, and synagogues in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in southern Russia, on 23rd June. The attacks led to the death of 20 people and injuries to at least 46 others. Six gunmen were also killed following the attacks. The incidents targeted the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala during the Orthodox festival of Pentecost and are suspected to have been coordinated. Russia also witnessed a terrorist attack by the ISIS-K group in Moscow on 22nd March, resulting in the deaths of more than 140 people.

Why:

Dagestan has experienced Islamist attacks in the past and incidents of separatist and militant violence. Between 2007 and 2017, attacks were reported by jihadist organizations such as the Caucasus Emirate and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus in Dagestan, as well as in neighboring republics like Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. The region has also seen an increase in antisemitic incidents.

So What:

  • Gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on an Orthodox church and a synagogue in Derbent at around 1800 hours on 23rd June. Two gunmen were later killed. The synagogue building was set on fire using Molotov cocktails.
  • Around the same time, two gunmen set fire to the main icon of an Orthodox church in Makhachkala and subsequently began shooting, targeting passing police cars. Additionally, a police post near the Makhachkala synagogue was attacked.
  • A police car was also attacked in the neighbouring village of Sergokala, where a police officer was injured.
  • According to reports, five gunmen have been identified, with some of them being related to the leader of the Sergokalinsky district, Magomed Omarov. The Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Republic of Dagestan has launched a terror investigation into the attacks.
  • Three days of mourning were declared in Dagestan on 24th June. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks as of 25th June.

Outlook:

On the morning of 24th June, a counterterrorism operation was initiated and promptly concluded. Additional operations may follow as the investigation progresses, potentially impacting local movement and communication. Heightened security measures and restricted access near affected areas are anticipated. Organizations are encouraged to stay informed and ready contingency plans as needed.

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